“We live in an area where snow, ice, and low temperatures are common, and winterizing your home is a good first step in preparing for winter months,” said Michael Martin, Virginia Cooperative Extension emergency response and preparedness coordinator. “Make sure that your home is well-insulated and that water lines are protected from freezing.”
According to Martin, Virginia is vulnerable to severe winter weather that can bring extended periods of freezing temperatures, high winds, heavy snow accumulation, freezing rain, and ice accumulation.
“The effects of these storms can include power outages, downed trees and tree branches, blocked roadways, and broken water pipes,” Martin said. “Residents may also find themselves without power or heat for several days and may be unable to leave their homes due to the storm’s effects.”
Martin encourages Virginians to prepare for power outages.
“Some things to consider include heat sources, light sources, food, and water. Don’t forget your pets and livestock as well,” Martin said. “As with preparation for all emergencies, get a kit, make a plan, and stay informed.”
Martin advises households to keep an emergency supply kit, which will provide family members, pets, and livestock with at least three days of food and water provisions. Winter storms can last for several days, therefore, provisions for more than three days are recommended.
“For livestock and horses, it is important to make sure that they have access to shelter, food, and water. The risk of frozen water in buckets and troughs is high in winter and must be monitored regularly,” Martin said. “In addition, access to grazing may be hindered if grazing land is covered in snow or ice. Supplemental feeding of hay may be necessary for a period of time.”
Following are some of Martin’s simple do’s and don’ts to remember in the case of a winter storm.
Winter storm do’s
- Ensure that you have enough food and water for at least three days for you and your pets.
- Keep extra clothing, blankets, and sleeping bags on hand.
- Keep a battery-operated, solar-powered, or crank weather radio.
- Insulate any exposed water pipes to help prevent freezing.
- Develop a family communication plan.
- Conserve heat by closing off unused rooms in your home.
- Install a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector.
- Keep your car full of fuel (but avoid travel if possible).
- Keep generators outdoors and at least 20 feet away from doors, windows, or vents.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
Winter storm don’ts
- Do not use space heaters such as gas log fireplaces, open-flame wood-burning fireplaces, or kerosene heaters when they will be unattended, such as when you are sleeping.
- Never use a generator indoors.
- Never use a grill, camp stove, or charcoal-burning device indoors.
- Do not leave your pets unprotected outside.
- Do not overexert yourself when shoveling snow or stay outdoors for long periods of time.
- Do not eat food from the freezer or refrigerator that has been thawed for more than two hours at a temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. For more food safety guidelines, visit the Virginia Cooperative Extension – Food Safety website.
For more information about preparing for winter storms, visit the Virginia Department of Emergency Management website.
Virginia Cooperative Extension brings the resources of Virginia’s land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and Virginia State University, to the people of the commonwealth. Through a system of on-campus specialists and locally based educators, it delivers education in the areas of agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community viability, and 4-H youth development. With a network of faculty at two universities, 107 county and city offices, 11 agricultural research and Extension centers, and six 4-H educational centers, Virginia Cooperative Extension provides solutions to the problems facing Virginians today.